By Kevin O’Rourke
Republican challenger Dick Jurgena is challenging Democratic incumbent Craig Rice for the District 2 County Council Seat.
Jurgena—a 75-year-old, cowboy hat wearing small business owner—is a Darnestown resident whose main campaign battle cry is ending one-party rule in Montgomery County. “There is currently only one elected official in all of Montgomery County who is not a Democrat,” said Jurgena on his campaign website. “I believe that is creating such one-sided views of the county's programs and policies that we are following the footsteps of Detroit and Chicago to bankruptcy.”
Jurgena says he is not a career politician. He is running to end one-party rule. He would also like to set eight-year or two-term limits on all members of the County Council, and has pledged to serve no more than two terms, if elected.
Of course to get elected, Jurgena must beat incumbent Craig Rice who is running for his second term. Rice will also finish up his year-long stint as Council President after the election in November.
Rice, 42, is a career politician. He served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 2006 to 2010 where he was on the Ways and Means Committee, a member of both its Education and Revenues subcommittees. He also served on Montgomery Delegation's Land Use and Transportation Committee.
Rice and his wife and three daughters live in Germantown. He has been a resident of Montgomery County for his whole life. Jurgena and his wife of 48 years have been county residents for 44 years, and have two grown sons and a granddaughter.
The two candidates have different ideas on how to foster economic prosperity in the county. Jurgena believes the county must cut spending and reduce taxes. “Under our current Montgomery County administration the cycle has been for the last several years, spend more than revenue, tax to undo resulting debt, increase regulations, lose businesses and wage earners to nearby states, see revenue decrease, spend more and so on. How is that working out for us? We are going broke,” Jurgena says on his website. “Let's cut spending to below revenue, lower taxes and curtail regulations, stop the flow of businesses and wage earners to other states, increase the number of taxpayers, collect more taxes, pay off debt, cut spending and so on.”
Rice’s sees growth of private sector jobs as imperative to sustaining a healthy growth in the county.
“We should be making it easier for county businesses to hire and expand, rather than making it more expensive to grow the workforce. We must ensure that our business climate is one that has a fair and sustainable tax climate,” said Rice on his campaign website.
Rice also sees the threat of jobs leaving the county. “And we need to provide important additional economic development tools for Montgomery County as it competes with other jurisdictions and seeks to attract and retain companies. Economic development is not just about taxes, but a broader menu of policies including: maintaining the county's traditionally high quality of life; connecting county businesses to potential customers, including the federal government; building and sustaining a 21st century transportation system; and keeping our schools strong so employers can build their workforce locally. Ultimately the goal is to protect the future financial stability of Montgomery County and its residents.”
Jurgena wants to encourage entrepreneurial and innovative businesses by offering tax credits for capital investments. He would also reduce the scope of collective bargaining to exclude benefits and “limit bargaining on wages, as the Governor of Wisconsin did,” according to his campaign website.
Jurgena would also reduce the impact fees land owners are required to pay to construct a commercial building in the county.
“A business owner in Clarksburg tells me he owns a piece of land next door to where he now rents,” reads Jurgena’s website. “He wants to build a place for his growing business. Before he can start designing the building, he will have to pay a Transportation Impact Fee of $25,000 and an Education Impact Fee, another $25,000. That's $50,000 he must spend before he can begin designing his building in earnest. And all told, with water, sewer and electrical hook-up fees, he is looking at $60,000 before he even drives the first nail.”
When it comes to education, Jurgena supports issuing vouchers to students, so the “money will follow the child, rather than the other way around.” He believes this will help with overcrowding in county schools.
He would also give the County Executive direct responsibility for the Montgomery County schools. He is also in favor of developing increased technical and career training for high school students. Jurgena would “investigate how the Perkins Modernization Act can ensure that Montgomery College and high schools in Montgomery County have the data needed to develop career and technical education (CTE) programs that give students the best opportunity to find a job in our county upon graduation,” he said on his website.
Rice agrees that education is paramount. “Our county has more graduate degrees than any other place in America. Strong primary education has helped make us a leader in the technological innovations of tomorrow. We must keep our commitment to public schools to make sure Maryland stays ahead of the curve in medicine, science, and computer science," he said.
“As a state legislator, I helped bring $250 million in school construction funding to modernize and renovate classrooms bringing total school construction funding in Maryland communities to $1.25 billion,” according to Rice’s website. “And the continued commitment and investment in education has made Maryland the number one public school system in the country for two years in a row.”
“In Montgomery County, we know that strong teachers make strong schools. Teachers must have the support they need in and out of the classroom. Teachers who want to attend conferences and trainings should not be penalized for vacation time, but rewarded for improving their skills. Teachers who want to eventually work outside of the classroom should have access to an administrative track so they can become the principals of tomorrow,” said Rice.
District 2 encompasses most of the Up-County region, including Germantown, Damascus, Barnesville, Boyds, and Clarksburg. It also runs east to include Montgomery Village and Goshen, and south to parts of Darnestown and North Potomac.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Early voting is open in Montgomery County through Thursday, Oct. 30 (including Saturday and Sunday) between 10am and 8pm. Voters may go to any early voting site in Montgomery County to cast a ballot . Early voting results are tallied on Election Night, just like votes cast on Election Day. If you vote early, you may not vote by mail or on Election Day.
Germantown residents can vote at the Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road in Germantown.